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South Sudan: Cholera stalks the country on Independence Day

Afisha and her child Sarah, who is being treated for cholera at a Save the children-supported health centre
Afisha* and her child Sarah*, who is being treated for cholera at a Save the children-supported health centre

Today is South Sudan’s Independence Day – the country’s third.

It’s a day of mixed emotions. For the last six months, South Sudan has been plunged into violence and chaos.

Over a million children and their families have been forced to flee their homes.

And now cholera has broken out

This highly infectious and potentially fatal disease is sweeping the country with outbreaks or alerts in nine of the 10 states. In Eastern Equatoria State alone, more than 20 people have died.

But despite the many challenges this young country faces, the people I have met here still have hope.

A search for help in the middle of the night

I met Afisha* after a long, arduous journey to a rural village in Eastern Equatoria. Afisha had made a journey too – in the middle of the night, on foot with her two sick children – 5-year-old William* and 3-year-old Sarah*.

“I knew that cholera was spreading all over the area,” she told me. “I had seen with my own eyes people getting sick. The first thing that came into my mind was that my children had cholera.”

Cholera has already brought tragedy to this family

Afisha knows how dangerous cholera can be. “I had four children but two died. My 4-year-old child got sick in the same way as William and Sarah. There were no drugs then, and very quickly my child died.

“The same thing happened to my 2-year-old. The same symptoms, the same illness. That child also passed away.”

To think that she was facing the likelihood of losing her remaining children to the same dreadful disease was just heartbreaking.

The response is underway

Fortunately, things are changing for parents like Afisha. This centre is just one of the many health facilities that Save the Children is supporting in Eastern Equatoria.

Save the Children is providing basic but essential items as well as the life-saving medicines, equipment, and medical staff needed to treat cholera. We are also training people to go out into the communities to spread messages about cholera prevention.

Saving lives, changing outcomes

Without this health centre, William and Sarah would likely have succumbed to the same fate as their siblings.

I left the health centre feeling hopeful about the future of South Sudan, knowing we are working in hard-to-reach locations, saving lives and changing outcomes.

“Cholera will come and go, we can’t control that,” says Afisha. “But the health centre taught me how to prevent the spread of cholera. I am very grateful to the people here: they have done marvelous things.”

*Names changed to protect identities

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